Limited accountability for jet procurement ‘not good enough’, say MPs

15 April 2011

17 April 2011 | Lindsay Clark 

The person in charge of the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) troubled Typhoon fighter jet procurement has limited decision making powers.

A report by the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) said although a “senior responsible owner” was accountable for delivering each major procurement project in the MoD, on the Typhoon project the individual merely co-ordinates the activity. “That is not good enough,” said the MPs’ report.

In addition, PAC chairwoman Margaret Hodge said the MoD could not outline why the contract requirements changed so much during the procurement process.

“The Department was unable to give us a coherent explanation of its 2004 decision to equip the early Typhoons with ground-attack capability, or of its subsequent decision not to use it,” she said. “The Department could also not adequately explain why it cancelled the third phase of the contract in 2004 on the grounds it did not need the capability, simply to reinstate the third phase in 2009 at a cost of £2.7 billion.”

The PAC report followed an investigation by the National Audit Office that found the cost of each Typhoon fighter jet is now 75 per cent more expensive than initially expected. Although the £13.5 billion cost of production is actually within the original estimate made in 1996, the MoD is purchasing 72 fewer planes.

The Committee report also said the MoD was not making best use of the fighter aircraft. Lack of spare parts forces the department to ground and cannibalise some fighters in order to keep other fighter planes in service.

“This pattern of decision-making is more about balancing the books in the short-term rather than ensuring value for money over time,” Hodge said.

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